KEELADI – An Urban Settlement of Sangam Age

  • Category
    History & Culture
  • Published
    1st Oct, 2019

Context

The Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department (TNAD) has stated that Keeladi excavations reveals sangam age to be much older than believed earlier.

About

The Tamil Nadu Archaeology Department (TNAD) has stated that Keeladi excavations reveals sangam age to be much older than believed earlier.

Where is Keeladi located?

Keeladi is a small village near Silaiman on the border between Madurai and Sivagangai districts in Tamil Nadu, and also the site on the banks on Vaigai River where remains of ancient Sangam culture have been found.

What is the Significance of Keeladi finding?

  • Generally, the Age of Sangam is considered between 3rd century BCE and 3rd century CE. But, the available Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) dates obtained for the Keeladi carbon samples push the date of Tamil-Brahmi to 6th century BCE. These scientific dates force to re-assess the widely held date of Sangam Age.
  • The AMS dates obtained from Kodumanal and Porunthal pushed the date of Tamil-Brahmi to 5th century BCE. But, the Keeladi AMS dates further pushed the date to a century earlier i.e., 6th century BCE.
  • As high literacy level is well achieved in 6th century BCE, naturally the beginning of historic period in Tamil Nadu goes back to 6th century BCE. The available evidences clearly suggest that the Early Historic period of Tamil Nadu begins in 6th century BCE and the Iron Age begins in 2 nd millennium BCE.
  • It is generally believed that second urbanization observed in Gangetic valley did not occur in Tamil Nadu. But, the Keeladi excavation clearly suggests that the second urbanization too happened in Tamil Nadu in 6th century BCE.

What is Sangam Age?

  • The Sangam Age constitutes an important chapter in the history of South India. According to Tamil legends, there existed three Sangams (Academy of Tamil poets) in ancient Tamil Nadu popularly called Muchchangam.
  • These Sangams flourished under the royal patronage of the Pandyas.
  • The first Sangam, held at Then Madurai, was attended by gods and legendary sages but no literary work of this Sangam was available.
  • The second Sangam was held at Kapadapuram but the all the literary works had perished except Tolkappiyam.
  • The third Sangam at Madurai was founded by Mudathirumaran. It was attended by a large number of poets who produced voluminous literature but only a few had survived.
  • These Tamil literary works remain useful sources to reconstruct the history of the Sangam Age.

Historical importance of Madurai:

  • It is one of the ancient cities in India that enjoyed continuity in the history from Pre-historic times. Due to its cultural prominence, Madurai is described as “The Athens of South India”.
  • It is also well known as a great centre for learning from very early times. As the seat of the Tamil academy called the Sangam, it wielded great influence in the literary and cultural fields.
  • During the glorious rule of Pandyas, Madurai had overseas connections for both commercial and cultural activities.
  • The Pandyas and their capital city Madurai were well known to the Ancient Greeks and Romans.
  • Megasthenese, the Greek ambassador of Seleukos Nicator at the court of the Chandra Gupta Maurya (320 B.C.), in these accounts gave a vivid picture of a South Indian Kingdoms.
  • Strabo (C. 25. B.C.) stated that a Pandya king sent an embassy to the Roman Emperor Augustus.
  • Pliny (C. 75 A.D.) mentioned about the Pandya, King Pandya and his capital Madurai.
  • Ptolemy (C. 130 A.D.) also referred Madurai as the royal city of the Pandyas.
  • The Arthasastra of Kautilya, while describing the trade between Northern and Southern India, spoke about the pearls and muslins of the Pandya country.
  • The astronomer Varahamihirar referred the Pandya kingdom in his Brhatsamhita.
  • The earliest datable Ashoka’s rock edicts Nos. 2 and 13 mention the South Indian Kingdoms viz, Chola, Pandya, Satyaputra and Keralaputra.
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